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Minutes of the Board of Trustees – January 2011

Minutes of the Board meeting held on Thursday 20 January 2011


Mark Getty, Chairman
Lance Batchelor
Simon Burke
Gautam Dalal
Professor David Ekserdjian
Lady Heseltine
Michael Hintze (for items 1-5, 7, 8, and 10)
Professor Anya Hurlbert
Patricia Lankester (for items 1-10)
John Lessore
John Nelson
Lady Normanby
Hannah Rothschild
Caroline Thomson

In attendance:

Dr Nicholas Penny (Director)
Dr Susan Foister (Deputy Director)
Kate Howe (Secretary to the Board)
Greg Perry (Director of Operations and Administration) Items 4-8
Jon Campbell (Head of Security) Item 4, part
Jane Ellis (Head of Finance) Items 5-8
Michael Cowdy  (Chairman of the NGT) Item 7, part
Sarah Ward (Director of Public Affairs and Development) Items 6-9
David Jaffe (Senior Curator) Item 11
Larry Keith (Director of Conservation) Item 11

The Chairman warmly welcomed Lance Batchelor to his first Board meeting.

Declarations of interest

1. The Chairman and Simon Burke both declared an interest as Trustees of the National Gallery Trust in item 7 of the Agenda.

David Ekserdjian and Patricia Lankester both declared an interest as Trustees of Tate in a loan request to be considered as part of item 11 of the Agenda, and took no part in the discussion of this loan request or the decision arising.

David Ekserdjian also declared an interest as the curator of the recent exhibition at the Royal Academy of works from the Szépüsvészeti Museum Budapest and took no part in the discussion of proposed loan to that Museum or in the decision arising.

Minutes of 2 December 2010 and matters arising

2. The Board approved the minutes of 2 December 2010 and the Chairman was authorised to sign them as a true record of the meeting.

The Director confirmed to the Board that the total cost of a proposed dinner to mark the anniversary of the opening of the Sainsbury Wing of the Gallery would be in the region of £9,000 and the Board approved the expenditure.

Director’s report, events and visitor numbers

3. The Board noted the Director’s report.

The Board expressed its gratitude for the generous gift from Michael and Dorothy Hintze of £2m towards building works at the Gallery. 

The Director expanded upon the problem of salt being walked into the Gallery in snowy weather, when it was put down in and around the Square to deal with ice.  The Scientist Trustee confirmed that there was evidence to support the damaging effect of chloride on vermilion paint. The Director reported on steps being taken to deal with the problem, including greater use of tack mats in snowy weather, the local use of alternative anti-icing substances and the collaboration with other galleries to investigate ways of measuring and mitigating any adverse consequences.

Student sit-in at the National Gallery

4. The Board noted the report on the sit-in at the Gallery by art students on 9th December.

The Board expressed their appreciation of the way in which this event had been handled, but asked for confirmation of the Gallery’s policy and protocol for closing entrances to the Gallery or the whole or part of the Gallery, in the event of demonstrations in or around Trafalgar Square or any expected occupation of the Gallery. The Director confirmed that in appropriate circumstances, the decision would be taken to close the Gallery and it was agreed that the Board should be reminded of the policy and protocols in this area.

The Director said that while the handling of the incident once it occurred had been excellent, there had been a failure properly to communicate with him and other members of the Gallery’s Incident Management Group when news of the likely sit-in had first been received, and even when it had started. Steps were being taken to review communication procedures, in the light of the event.

Follow up to Comprehensive Spending Review 

5. The Board noted the report on follow up to the Comprehensive Spending Review. 

The Director of Operations and Administration introduced the discussion with the Board. He reminded the Board that some steps had already been taken to increase income and cut costs in advance of the announcement of cuts to the Gallery’s grant in aid announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. The Head of Finance outlined the likely income deficit which the Gallery would face by the year 2014-15 if no further steps were taken and said this would amount to just over £2.6m per annum (excluding any surplus from the exhibitions programme which varied considerably from year to year).The proposals for addressing this prospective deficit included budgeting for an increased contribution to income from the exhibition programme each year, achieving a reduction in operating costs and reductions in staffing.

The Board were told that, as far as staffing reductions were concerned, any reduction in the number of Gallery Assistants could be achieved through not recruiting when posts fall vacant. In relation to other areas, implementation of any changes would have to take account of the new Civil Service Compensation Scheme, only recently published. Urgent consideration was being given to the question of whether the Gallery would offer the voluntary exit route as a first step.
There was a discussion by the Board of the implications of a proposed reduction in the number of Gallery Assistants. The Board were reminded that consideration of the possibility of moving to a situation where an increased number of posts patrolled two rooms, rather than one, had been underway before the implementation of spending cuts, in part because it was thought that there were security advantages to having staff moving between rooms, rather than stationary in one room. It was emphasised therefore that there was not perceived to be any additional security risk arising from this proposed change, which had the approval of the National Security Adviser.

The Board endorsed the proposed approach to meeting the cut in Grant-In-Aid, which they recognised sought to ensure that the Gallery’s core activities remained unaffected.

The Board requested that priority should be given to communicating the proposed way forward to staff as soon as possible to reduce uncertainty and stress. It was agreed that staff would be told as soon as possible, subject only to identifying the optimum process to adopt to achieve required staffing reductions in the light of the revised Civil Service Compensation .Scheme. 

Proposed acquisition (this item was taken after item 7)

6. Information has been excluded under s 43 FOI 2000.

Possible arrangements with NGT

7. The Chairman welcomed Michael Cowdy to the meeting and invited him to address the Board in relation to the history, objects and activities of the National Gallery Trust. Michael Cowdy made his presentation and the Chairman thanked him on behalf of the Board. He left the meeting.

Information has been excluded under s36 FOI 2000.

Grant applications (this item was taken after item 5)

8. The Board approved the making of eight grant applications to the National Gallery Trust as proposed in the paper presented to them and authorised the Director to make formal applications when required for the other purposes specified in that paper.

Membership scheme

9. The Director of Public Affairs and Development presented the paper on a possible membership scheme.

Information has been excluded under s43 FOI 2000

The Board agreed that further market research should be carried out and consideration given to options before any final recommendations were brought back to the Board.

Annual FOI report (this item was taken after item 8)

10. The Board noted the contents of the annual Freedom of Information report, and confirmed that they wished to continue to receive annual reports in this form.

Loans out

11. The Board approved the recommendation to lend Venice: Piazza San Marco and the Colonnade of the Procuratie Nuove by Canaletto (NG 2516) subject to the Director securing such alteration to the proposed date of loan as he might consider desirable and subject to the Director receiving confirmation that the venue was approved by the National Security Adviser, and otherwise met the Gallery’s requirements.

The Board reconsidered the decision taken on 2 December 2010 to lend Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist by Caravaggio (NG 6389) in the light of the absence of anti- seizure legislation in Hungary and confirmed the decision to lend, subject to the obtaining of a letter of comfort from the Hungarian Minister of Culture, and subject to the Gallery reserving the right to withdraw from the agreement to lend if no anti –seizure legislation was in place at the time of the proposed loan.

The Board approved all other proposed loans from the Collection.

Any other business

12. The Chairman said that this was the last Board meeting of Simon Burke and John Lessore. He reminded the Board of the major contributions to the Gallery and its work made by each of them and expressed the gratitude of the whole Board for all they had done.

There being no other business, the Chairman declared the meeting closed.

Copies of previous Board minutes can be obtained from the Libraries and Archive department.

Confidential and sensitive information has been excluded from these published minutes in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

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